Iraqi children wear protective masks as they walk near a religious school where the first coronavirus case was detected, following the outbreak of the new coronavirus, in the holy city of Najaf Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: Iraqi Health ministry announced on Tuesda four cases infected with coronavirus. The infected according to ministry came from Iran to Kirkuk.

Iraq extended an entry ban on travellers from China and Iran and banned travellers from five other countries over coronavirus fears, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

The entry ban is for travellers coming directly or indirectly from China, Iran, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Italy and Singapore. It exempts Iraqi nationals, diplomats and official delegations, the ministry said in a statement. It advised Iraqis not to travel to those countries.

The ministry said the measures were "in order to safeguard the health of citizens across Iraq, and to control the spread of the coronavirus after the first case was recorded".

Schools and universities were suspended for 10 days in Najaf, where the first case of the new coronavirus, an Iranian theology student, was reported on Monday, and citizens were urged to avoid travelling to and from the province.

Public gatherings in Najaf were banned until further notice and the ministry advised that they not be held throughout Iraq.

Fears of a coronavirus pandemic grew on Monday after sharp rises in new cases in Iran, Italy and South Korea. The virus has infected more than 80,000 people and killed more than 2,660 in China, where it originated late last year.

Hold on protests

Populist Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr suspended a call for his followers to hold massive protests against his political opponents due to fears over the spread of coronavirus on Tuesday, minutes after the health ministry urged citizens to avoid public gatherings.

"I had called for million man protests and sit-ins against sectarian power-sharing and today I forbid you from them for your health and life, for they are more important to me than anything else," he said in a statement.